Lionel Messi scored his first Paris Saint-Germain goal on Tuesday and it was a significant one, helping put Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to the sword in a 2-0 Champions League win for the French club.
Messi’s goal was both stunning and also so typical of the Argentine, as he burst forward from the right and played a one-two with Kylian Mbappe on the edge of the box, holding off Aymeric Laporte before sending a first-time strike high into the net.
It raised the roof at the Parc des Princes, as PSG supporters celebrated seeing the six-time Ballon d’Or winner open his account for the club he joined in August.
“The most important thing was to win the game against a great side, one of the favourites,” Messi told broadcaster Canal Plus.
“It’s true that I was getting desperate to score my first goal. I hadn’t played much recently and I had only played once here at home but I am settling into the team little by little.”
Idrissa Gana Gueye, arguably PSG’s best player this season, had given the hosts an early lead to leave City chasing the game.
Guardiola’s side, who beat the French club in the semifinals last season before losing the final, dominated large spells of the match in between the two goals, but their finishing let them down.
They will especially rue the moment in the first half when Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva each hit the bar in quick succession, but City will still be confident of progressing to the last 16.
“We controlled them and unfortunately we could not score. That’s football. Nothing to say except my biggest compliment to the team,” Guardiola told BT Sport.
Of Messi he added: “We know it’s impossible to control Leo. He didn’t see a lot of the ball, but he’s unstoppable.”
PSG and Club Brugge, who won 2-1 at RB Leipzig, are level on four points at the top of Group A, with City on three points.
The Premier League champions will hope to take their revenge on PSG when they meet in the reverse fixture, but this was a night for the Qatar-owned rivals of Abu Dhabi-backed City to bask in the glow of having Messi.
The former Barcelona man had missed PSG’s last two games with a knee knock but the expectation was always that he was being saved for this glamour tie.
He had completed 90 minutes for PSG only once before this game since arriving to team up with Neymar and Mbappe in a dream front line.
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However the surprise star for the French side so far this season has been Gueye, the Senegal midfielder who has four goals to his name after opening the scoring eight minutes in.
Neymar failed to properly connect with Mbappe’s cutback from the right but the ball fell to Gueye and he fired high into the net.
Having kept Chelsea at bay in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge at the weekend, City were chasing the game already.
Guardiola had made two changes to his line-up, with Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden dropping out to make way for Sterling and Riyad Mahrez.
Sterling was involved when the visitors squandered a chance to equalise in comical fashion as the half-hour mark approached.
The England forward’s header came back off the bar and on its way down brushed Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was making his first ever Champions League appearance after being preferred to Keylor Navas in the Paris goal.
Silva was left with an easy chance to convert the loose ball from barely two metres but somehow also hit the bar.
City were succeeding in cutting off PSG’s front three from the rest of their team but then came a flashpoint as Kevin De Bruyne escaped with a yellow card after his studs caught Gueye high above his ankle, the referee Carlos del Cerro Grande somewhat surprisingly not reviewing the images.
Despite that moment late in the first half, this heavyweight showdown between the runners-up from the last two seasons often lacked the intensity that would certainly have been there in a knockout tie.
Donnarumma saved well from De Bruyne in the second half. Messi was largely a peripheral figure until he conjured his moment of brilliance to kill off City.